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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 3 - Verse 11

Verse 11. Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. The word here translated shoes, has a signification different from what it has in our language. At first, in order to keep the feet from the sharp stones, or the burning sand, small pieces of wood were fastened to the soles of the feet, called sandals. Leather, or skins of beasts dressed, afterwards were used. The foot was not covered at all; but the sandal, or piece of leather or wood, was bound by thongs.

The wooden sandal is much worn in Arabia, Judea, and Egypt. It has a raised heel and toe, as represented in some of the preceding cuts; and, though often expensive and neat, it was usually a cheap, coarse, and very clumsy article.

The people put off these when they entered a house, and put them on when they left it. To loose and bind on sandals, on such occasions, was the business of the lowest servants; and their office was to loose and carry about their masters' sandals. The expression here, then, was an expression of great humility; and John says that he was not worthy to be the servant of Him who should come after him.

Shall baptize you. Shall send upon you the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is frequently represented as being poured out upon his people, Pro 1:23; Is 44:3; Joe 2:28,29; Ac 2:17,18.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the same, therefore, as the sending of his influences to convert, purify, and guide the soul.

The Holy Ghost: The Third Person of the adorable Trinity, whose office it is to enlighten, renew, sanctify, and comfort the soul. He was promised by the Saviour to convince of sin, Joh 16:8. To enlighten or teach the disciples, Joh 14:26; 16:13. To comfort them in the absence of the Saviour, Joh 14:18; 16:7. To change the heart, Tit 3:5. To be baptized with the Holy Ghost means, that the Messiah would send upon the world a far more powerful and mighty influence than had attended the preaching of John. Many more would be converted. A mighty change would take place. His ministry would not affect the external life only, but the heart, the motives, the soul; and produce rapid and permanent changes in the lives of men. See Ac 2:17,18.

With fire. This expression has been very variously understood. Some have supposed that he refers to the afflictions and persecutions with which men would be tried under the gospel; others, that the word fire means judgment or wrath. A part of his hearers he would baptize with the Holy Ghost, but the wicked with fire and vengeance. Fire is a symbol of vengeance. See Is 5:24; 61:2; 66:24.

If this be the meaning, as seems to be probable, then John says that the ministry of the Messiah would be far more powerful than his was. It would be more searching and trying; and they who were not fitted to abide the test, would be cast into eternal fire. Some have supposed, however, that by fire, here, he intends to denote that his ministry would be refining, powerful, purifying, as fire is sometimes an emblem of purity, Mal 3:2. It is difficult to ascertain the precise meaning, further than that his ministry would be very trying, purifying, searching. Multitudes would be converted; and those who were not true penitents should not be able to abide the trial, and should be driven away.

{u} "with the Holy Ghost" Ac 1:5

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